In honour of Hydesville Day I produced an annual magazine for Psychic Press 1995 ltd., owned by the SNU when I was editor of their publication Psychic News. For this year I thought a few words on this website might suffice to recall the advent of Modern Spiritualism…
I have entitled them; ‘Spiritualism: a word that has always had a bad press!’ Yet in the true sense of the word, this has life enhancing and life changing meaning.
The 31st of March 1848 heralded the first popular media reports of intelligent converse between this physical and material world and that of we knew not where – but only that it wasn’t of this world.
This event was tailor-made for the fast-growing publicity machinery of the day. Printing methods were about to improve and the fore runner to the telephone, Morse Code, had just come into use with the first message to the American Congress sent by its inventor, ‘What hath God wrought’ in a series of tapped out staccato dots and dashes. Before Morse messages had needed to be physically carried over distances from sender to recipient.
The contact was instigated by an ordinary individual who had lived in the past, but was able to give details of his identity and some of his personal memories that included his own shocking and violent exit from his prior earthly existence, to sympathetic, young females belonging to an equally unremarkable Methodist family, living in a rented cottage in rural Hydesville, New York State, in what was their present time. He used loud knocking noises to gain their attention and thereafter they used rapping sounds, similar to Morse Code, in an alphabetic system to communicate with each other.
The newspapers of the day loved it. Journalists were despatched, stories were filed and published; editors wrote Leaders and supportive and often eye-witness accounts from persons of note were quoted at length.
Then, perceiving a very real threat to the status quo, the conservative establishment, and the established churches, found their voice. Suddenly the old cry of “Witchcraft” and Deuteronomy Chapter 18 verses 10-12 became fashionable again! Spiritualism and its practices were given less and less coverage, and when mentioned it was usually not shown in the best of lights to say the least!
Nothing sells newspapers and journals, from the almost mono-syllabic popularist, to the ever-weighty tomes preferred by the intelligentsia, professional and ruling classes than is public argument, vilification and scandal, murder and mayhem in the absence of any actual war. Nothing has changed to this day, except that the scope of those sales, direct and indirect, through the expansion of mass media reception sites, is now on a global, international, scale. So too is the public argument, vilification and scandal, murder and mayhem, plus now for many countries, and the factions therein, being at war is a constant.
Spiritualism and the literary adherents within it lost no time in combating the prejudice by producing Spiritualist publications to promote their cause. These 19th Century Spiritualists produced positive, truthful and informative newspapers and journals. They also held public meetings at which rappings were heard and heavy tables moved in answer to questions and a new ‘mental’ mediumship was developed in church and home circles.
When Spiritualism arrived in England, in 1853, in no time at all there were churches convened, mediumship development circles formed and a newspaper set up. Other newspapers, pamphlets and journals followed – and so did the general disapproval of the mainstream church and press. England still had a Witchcraft Act of 1735 that was only to be repealed in 1951 and replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act that was itself repealed in 2009!
Now in the 21st Century we have Spiritualist members of the 1st Estate, Clergy, and a networked 4th Estate (Press) fortunately as Spiritualism has but one newspaper in the UK and a magazine that was once Psychic News in print with a couple of ‘in-house periodicals’ produced by Spiritualist companies/organisations. However, like Pandora’s Box the internet has let loose not just the proponents of Spiritualism in what is often misspelled and semi-literate glory, but gives a platform to often bible quoting denigrators – unfortunately also often less obviously un-learned…
Arthur Findlay the Spiritualist philanthropist who also bank-rolled Psychic News as a weekly Spiritualist newspaper in 1932, left his house, Stansted Hall, to be used as a college for psychic studies that would also teach general education as he bemoaned the fact that Spiritualist exponents/mediums were often lacking a good standard of schooling in the 3R’s; Reading (W)Riting and (A)Rithmetic!
Spiritualism itself has been a victim of all this public media activity. The heavily edited ‘shows’ declared to be for ‘entertainment purposes’ purport to present mediumship – the very bedrock on which Spiritualism is built – that are in essence a travesty of the truth. People who might attend a genuine Spiritualist meeting or church service expecting to see a replica of one of these shows will or should find, a gulf between them. They may then feel let down, albeit unwarranted, as that showbiz environment and spin is missing from the proceedings. Then the ‘ghost hunting’ shows of the haunted house (reminiscent of the fairground) genre, serve only to titillate and terrify the gullible…
These only serve to frighten people away from the Spiritualism that not only can prove there is a real life after physical death, but make them scared to attend genuine Spiritualist meetings…
So here you are, reading or listening to this via the internet. This is the best example we have of what and where is this ‘World of Spirit’ that Spiritualism expounds as somewhere to which we all belong – and with which we can have contact and communication. Further to that fact, that there is a similar downright evil to saintliness range of individuals who dwell therein.
Whether we believe in the religious teachings attached to Spiritualist understandings – and like any other religious teachings they vary according to the particular sector or grouping of adherents – or orthodox views of heaven and hell, salvation or damnation, there are obvious issues that need addressing to keep ourselves safe from harm whether psychological or physical. The orthodox maintain we should have nothing to do with spirits/Spiritualism/mediums while we are down here on the earth, and some who have to do with spirits and mediums who we would consider of liberal spiritual disposition and patently unorthodox and even some Spiritualists, refuse to acknowledge that there is anything unpleasant in the realm of spirit…
This brings us to the role of the established religions and their admonishments, prohibitions, rituals and ceremonials designed to ward off what Charles Dickens named ‘the oomnagarties’.
The problem of repentance providing a heavenly billet for perpetrating horrors in this world prior to going to the next, thus ensuring a place among the nice guys, has been resolved apparently by the established religions of the world. That practice requires the new internet-speak ‘lol’ as a qualifying phrase; laugh out loud. They have also waxed rich on the donations given by grateful miscreants in advance of their guaranteed ascension to the higher realms. How about a 21st century style advert such as ‘No time to pray? Pay us and we’ll do it for you!’ Etcetera.
Those who uphold the right to pursue the practices of all religions apart from Spiritualism often level the accusation that mediums get given money for their services and Spiritualist meetings aren’t all free to visit as a particular negative aspect, but at worst it is no different to the way in which those other older religions have gathered funds.
Now the fact is that being given proof through a genuine medium that a loved one is still themselves, is still loving you – and can manifest that in your everyday life experience, or learning to be that channel yourself, is a life enhancing and life changing experience. On a more altruistic plane it proves that love, unconditional spiritual love, is the most important emotional and intellectual manifestation of the human psyche for the betterment of all who inhabit the material world – earth.
Unconditional love, care and concern for all life, may not sell many newspapers and periodicals yet – but stories of spirit returns coupled with that message across the ether of earthly cyber space will eventually change perceptions of what it means to be alive.
The networking 4th estate with its hotch potch of pro and non pro journalists and writers from many different countries, whether their use of language is adequate or inadequate and waxing voluble about the Spiritualist (and not forgetting Spiritist) movement and practices, will make a difference.